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Friars Interviews

Mick abrahams
blodwyn pig   wommett   mick abrahams band    local legends
Friars appearances:  14/07/69  19/02/70 (Wommett at Friars Bedford) 17/07/71 (Mick Abrahams Band) 20/04/74  17/08/74

Mick Abrahams is a local legend. He played throughout the 1960s as part of various incarnations of the The Hustlers and with Ian Anderson, was a founding member of Jethro Tull. That sadly didn't last too long, but then formed Blodwyn Pig. Now whilst they ended up on TOTP, the band soon parted and Mick went on to form Wommett (who played Friars Bedford) and the Mick Abrahams Band (who played Friars Aylesbury). Blodwyn Pig reformed in 1974 and played Friars twice and then split again. They have reformed on and off since. Most recently they all got back together for a couple of songs at Mick's 65th birthday party gig in Milton Keynes which was compered by the legendary Whispering Bob Harris. Mick, was not so long ago, a guest of Never Mind The Buzzcocks' identity parade.

In 2008, Mick released his autobiography, 'What is a Wommett' and we caught up with him in Milton Keynes whilst he was on his promotional tour.

All I will say is that, having read the book, I now know what a Wommett is, it surprised me, made me laugh (as did many of the stories in the book! Mick has a wonderful style) and if you want to know what it is - then buy the book and make Mick happy! That aside, the book concentrates more on some of the adventures of Mick's life rather than specific musical highpoints. Along the way, you'll appreciate the writing style and the humour.

We used to play Aylesbury, either the Assembly Hall or the Town Hall. We used to back all the artistes of the day like Vince Eager, Dickie Pride (both part of the Larry Parnes stable with Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Tommy Steele and Joe Brown - Ed). Aylesbury was a stomping ground for us because we were Dunstable boys. We were always the supporting band. There was always a top band. Once or twice the top band never showed up so we would end up doing a whole evening and backing up singers like Eager and Pride. [and] Also Mike Sarne ("Come Outside"). So we were regulars [in Aylesbury] when we were still called The Hustlers. We were inspired by The Shadows....pinstripe down the side of the trousers that our mothers sewed in. Bow ties and all that nonsense, pinkle wickers (sic). I'm sure it was Aylesbury Town Hall.

The Borough Assembly Hall was the second incarnation of Friars. The Friarage Hall, or ex-Servicemen's Club was the first incarnation and was much smaller.

I seem to remember playing there with the Mick Abrahams Band.

Going back, you were one of the founders of Jethro Tull [with Ian Anderson] and then moved on to Blodwyn Pig - isn't it true that the name for Blodwyn Pig came from someone who had, shall we say, imbibed on one too many herbal cigarettes?

Herbal cigarettes would have been an understatement! The bloke who gave us the name [Graham Waller], bless his heart, is probably straight as a die now, as I am. [Waller] was an intellectual, but on the fine cusp of madness and he never knew what day was which. Graham was the kind of guy who would come in with a handful of all different coloured pills. One day he had five or six different pills and said "these look interesting.." and scoffed the lot. I said "what have you done you silly sod?!! What's going to happen now?" "I dunno old boy, but we'll soon find out won't we!!"" (laughs). He went all colours and started speaking in tongues.

Quite strange, I should think!

Well, it was funny, but he couldn't give a stuff.

After Blodwyn Pig went their separate ways and you became the Mick Abrahams Band....

Well, Wommett was the first incarnation but it wasn't working. People keep asking what is a wommett which is why I've called the book that. People ask me and I say they have to buy the book!

I'll have to mention on the website what a Wommett is....!

No, don't give it away!

So back in 1974, the first reformation of Blodwyn Pig and you played Friars twice at the Borough Assembly Hall....

That must have been with Clive Bunker on drums if it was 1974..

Yes, but then old differences saw you split up again..... Didn't you leave the music business for quite a while?

I went on [back] to the Mick Abrahams Band. It [ended up] with me firing a couple of people which I didn't enjoy doing. I'd only ever fired one guy called John Darnborough who was a lovely guy and a lovely player but he didn't have things in order.

He was in Wommett wasn't he?

Yes he was, and it was after that that we had the Mick Abrahams Band in its various formats culminating in the three piece. [around this time] it got too much and did my head in and I went home one night and cried. It got too much for me and I was on the cusp on packing up. I just about held it together (mentally) but I said "bollocks, I've had enough of this, enough of Chrysalis, enough of the business" and that was it, the shop's closed, the shutters are down, I'm sticking my guitar up in the loft and it's staying there for a year. I meant it when I said it, but after about four weeks....

You got it down again!!!

Yeah, I couldn't resist it! Probably two months tops, I got it down and started playing it again. But I did all sorts of things for a while. I was, and still am, a regular swimmer and a guy at the pool said "You're always here, why not work here and you can swim as much as you like for free! You could be a lifesaver and get paid for it" I thought, I'll have some of that, so I did that and then I was poached by another leisure centre who asked if I had ever done swimming pool management - that's a leap for a lifeguard! I said no, but I was a quick learner so I got the job. It was a normal job. I have a low boredom threshold. I was also selling second hand cars and selling life assurance. But I was still playing during that time in a semi-pro capacity. Then I thought you're older and wiser to deal with things now, so I got back into music full time sometime around the mid 1980s. Blodwyn Pig got reformed on a whim after we got pissed up one night....

But I guess you were all older and wiser and put any differences away....

Yeah, we put life behind us, we soldiered on and got on with it.

And you had a great time?

Yes we had a great time and I'm still looking forward to more good times. We had the 65th birthday party and just released the double CD of that which is absolutely excellent and the best live CD I've ever done.

The 65th birthday (which regrettably I couldn't go to because of holidays) was as I far as I can see a great time had by all...

Not just a great time, but THE best time I've ever had.

And you got Blodwyn Pig back together....

For two numbers, yes.

FAW: And Bob Harris paid tribute....

Yes, he compered the show and writes in the foreword of the book that he is writing that as he is about to go onstage to compere my birthday party.

And one of your contemporaries, Paul Jones was there

I'd never played with him before, but I've always been friendly with Paul and loved what's he done. He's a supreme harmonica player.

I did see him with The Blues Band at Friars and yes......

He is in Larry Adler's league and Larry Adler to me, was probably the greatest expert in harmonica I ever heard...and he could play everything...with heart and soul and that was no mean feat. Paul exudes that lovely confidence that Larry has.

So you've had your 65th birthday party.....

Yes, if you exclude the few years I had the hump with it although I was still playing, I have been in the business 45-50 years.

Including those days as a life guard...

Yes, I was still playing 2-3 gigs a week. In fact, I was playing more then than when I was doing it for a living!

I guess if you hadn't fallen out of love with music.......

I've never fallen out of love with music, ever. I fell out of love with the business. I wasn't well equipped to deal with the kind of knocks I was getting. Musicians are not special people, but they are a breed apart. The last people who should turn people over or get turned over are musicians or those from the performing arts...but that's maybe a naive point of view.

But you're not the only one to be disillusioned with the music business or particularly record companies...

It's the record companies. They're not there for the musicians.

A lot of the time, they just see things as a money making exercise....

Yes, and they see people in the performing arts as an easy touch. Someone who's set up a bookshop like this (where we are conducting this interview) will be a tougher cookie to crack. That's the way of the world.

A lot bands, as they get older and wiser, manage to take complete control....

That is very true and I wish them 100% success. But they need to be wary as they ever were because the crims (criminals) and the nasties will have got smarter too - they only want to take and not give. I want to give. I want to take something too, as I'm not a fool.

During our conversation, Mick breaks off several times to sign copies of his book and it is clear from the fans talking to him that Mick has been a big influence on them and he appears flattered that he regularly gets complimentary emails about his own style. He is modest and a great raconteur.

As far as Mick Abrahams 2008 is concerned, you're still going strong in the business and playing. I noticed your website... and a huge testimony to your music is that your website has had over 900,000 visitors which is astonishing. In fact astonishing for any website

I'm also astonished to find out that if you Google me, and take out the anomalies there are something crazy like 198,000 references to me....

Some of those will be the Friars Aylesbury website! You're referenced quite a few times...! I've also noticed of late, well the last few years, that you've been playing with Ian Anderson again.

Yeah, all the hoo-hah between me and him ended about a year after me leaving the band (Jethro Tull). I don't think Ian's ever hated anyone - neither have I - but I was mad [at the time] at him. We've spoken about it since and [it was dealt with] a long long time ago.

Did you have cause to leave the band?

I felt I was ousted. I left the band - I gave my notice as it was doing nobody any favours, so I tried to do it in a nice way..

The conversation broke here, but Mick makes it clear in his book that despite giving his notice, he was sacked from Jethro Tull.

But me and Ian made it up after that. We sat down, recently, about DVD interviews and a couple of ex-members of Tull made [in my opinion] untruthful references to me and Ian within Tull. Ian wasn't having any of it and was most gracious about my departure and conceded that they plotted behind my back and always hoped there wasn't any deep burning resentment. When I was interviewed for the DVD, I specifically said there was no hatred or resentment, so that completely cleared the air. I have always, and always will, respect Ian.

So, despite the anger in [the way] you left Jethro Tull, you and Ian have really always been on good terms..

We don't live out of each other's pockets, we're not the same people. But he is an honest man. All sorts of people have come up to me to "get me onside" including a couple of ex-members of Jethro Tull for their own reasons, financial or otherwise. People have said "you know what he's like...." I've said [to those people] "it's your beef with Ian, don't try to bring me onside and start a war, I'm not interested"

You call it as you see it - you get on with the guy.

Ian's been nothing but honest with me. Yes, we had a bad time. But what I truly believe is that Ian did what he had to do and I did what I had to do. What I didn't approve of is the method. I do truly agree that I was not to be a future asset to Jethro Tull because it wasn't me. Ian was proven right and I respect him for that. I still think to this day, that the problem was the management that split that band. As I found out this year, the same guy was instrumental in breaking up Blodwyn Pig! Draw your own conclusion from that statement....

At least at this stage of your life, there's no bad blood with Ian

Not at all. I really enjoy playing with the old boy. I enjoy his company, he's a very witty gut with a dry sense of humour. Of nearly all the people who say bad things about him, I know him a lot better than a lot of these people

There aren't many rockers who play a flute...

No - he's a complete contradiction in terms! any why not !

It must have been pretty much Ian Anderson and Thijs van Leer from Focus who were using flutes in rock music [at that time]

You're still gigging as we go in to 2009 and I think people reading this interview on the Friars Aylesbury website will be pleased you are still going strong and gigging. I think your story......

They'll have to find out by buying the book!

..and people WILL find out exactly what a Wommett is!

It's got to be done!

Mick Abrahams, thank you very much.

God bless you mate - I really appreciate it.

Mick's official website

This interview and its content are 2009 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used in whole or in part without permission.

 
 
 

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